I love everything about gangster movies, the lifestyle, the excesses, the over the top violence and most importantly watching their world come tumbling down, either by infighting and betrayal or by law enforcement. The fact that Gangster Squad is set in the past instead of the present makes it even better. Why is past better? Mainly it’s just classier, the costumes, the sets, even the excesses are classier. Modern gangster movies seems to be all about drugs, paramilitary weapons, and topless women. Vintage gangsters go to classy clubs, drink alcohol by the glass not the bottle, and have sultry women dressed to the nines on their arm.
Gangster Squad is set in late 1940’s Los Angeles. Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) is the head gangster in town with aspirations of going even bigger. So far the police have not been able to do much to stop the flow of illegal activity caused by Cohen and his cohorts. Part of the problem is that many of the police and judges have been bought. But not Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) who along with the Chief of Police (Nick Nolte) form a secret task force (the Gangster Squad) of varied police officers to gather evidence and bring down Cohen and his operation.
What follows is a lot of what you expect from gangster movies, violence, death, near misses, and betrayals. Nothing really new here but still well presented and played out. It was a good movie but I just didn’t feel particularly excited about it. I think this movie would’ve been better with some changes in casting.
First Ryan Gosling as Sgt. Jerry Wooters. Now I find Gosling kind of adorable and I loved him in Lars and the Real Girl; however, he just didn’t sell me on this character. I don’t know if it was his portrayal or the fact it seemed like the character was supposed to be the naive boy next door and the seasoned vet just wanting an easy ride of things. So even though it seemed the character was evolving though the movie, it was really hard to tell since I couldn’t figure him out from the beginning. It just felt very awkward.
The second is, unfortunately, Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen. I say unfortunately because he was a major part of the film so therefore he was annoying me on a regular basis. The accent or manner of speaking he was trying to pull off wasn’t working. It didn’t go with him and many times felt forced, making him come across more gangster wanna be then someone to be feared. I think he definitely overplayed the role and in the end seem more caricature than criminal.
But even so it’s still a nice movie for no other reason that Josh Brolin puts in a solid performance and all the rest of the elements work well.